Anicca, dukkha, anatta. I've listened to plenty of bhikkhus and bhikkhunis talk about these characteristics at length.

Take for example anicca. I am asking the same thing about dukkha and anatta.

Suppose one has not yet seen for oneself how all phenomena are impermanent, but has an intellectual understanding of it from listening to the Dhamma.

Is it possible that such a person could, for instance, recognize anicca, but not understand that they have recognized it, thinking, "Anicca is yet to be grasped", when in fact anicca has already been grasped? To clarify, the person might even reap the benefits of understanding anicca. They don't fret about illness, nor about building a career, nor about global warming, for instance. (I have picked a few things from my own life that I am still learning to deal with). Yet the person still thinks, "Anicca is yet to be grasped."

If it is possible, how is it possible and what should one do about it? If it is not possible, why not?

As a guess, does the answer lie in the person's actions?

As another guess, is this a more specific case of asking how to know one's own mind?

3 Answers 3


There is knowing of Anicca, knowing of Dukkha, and knowing of Anatta, separate from each other. And then there is knowing of all three together, or rather the knowing of vision behind these three designations, in all its implications.

In my experience, it is seeing all implications, top to bottom, is what makes all the difference in the world. I had intellectual understanding of the three marks for years. I even understood shunyata, or thought I did. I even knew that Enlightenment can't be a state. And I still missed the point.

It's all about implications, of all three, together. When you know reality behind the three, and all implications of this reality, then you can be sure you know what is there to be known. Until then, to think "anicca (etc.) is yet to be grasped" would be a valid thought. Why? Because if you don't see how it fits together, or do see how it all fits together but not its implications -- then your knowledge of individual components is obviously not 100% complete yet.

  • So basically if you're not sure whether you know, then you don't know, right?
    – Anthony
    Oct 4, 2014 at 3:32
  • 2
    if you're not sure whether you know, then you definitely don't know, yes. But even if you're sure you know, you could be mistakenly sure. It is only when you see how it all fits together, then you know that you know. Although there could be an intermediate period when you almost know how it all fits together, but don't quite realize all its implications yet. That's almost like what you say, not knowing that you already know it, but not really, because the implications are missing, which means the knowledge of how it all fits together (and thus of individual components) is not complete yet.
    – Andriy Volkov
    Oct 4, 2014 at 3:38

Bit late, but I would like to contribute.

According to the tiny fraction I know of Buddhism, any material phenomena of this world, shows the four fundamental characteristics (Maha Bhuta) of Patavi (Hardness, Solidity), Apo (Liquidity, Binding or flowing nature), Thejo (Heat) and Vayo (Movement, Air).

These characteristics appear, live and disappear. Billions of these sets of Bhutas appear live and disappear in a fraction of a time. This applies to all materials including our body.

Bhuthas are not permanent (they disappear), so it is Anicca. Bhuthas getting aged and fade away during it's life time. So it is Dukkha. No one or no power in this universe can penetrate or force on the behaviour of these Bhuthas. So it is Anatta.

  • Hi Somebody and welcome to Buddhism SE.
    – user2424
    Jun 25, 2015 at 9:48

Right view is the "Four Noble Truths": the only line of thought compatible with the most refined states of phenomenal cognition. Aj Thanissaro's rendering of 'Stress' is useful in this third definition.

With the successive development of Right View, the path successively unfolds: to attain it's successive development, the path has to develop as support. In one instance either one is the result of the other, in another instance it is the cause of the other. Hence clarity and skillfulness go hand in hand, ie. samadhi and punna need to develop as occasions present: either one sharpening-up the other.

Trying to see no-self begs the question of who or what is looking. In the perception of endless transience and stress, the complete absence of any unchanging eternal identity may be noted: simply a fresh identity corresponding to each successive observation. In D.O., contact with, or cognition of, an object results in the arising of a feeling. If attention turns to this feeling, it is understood to be a bodily sensation. Thus identity with the initial object won't arise, though identity with the body may well do so: in which case Stress continues, and the whole tangle of Samsara ensues.

Since this happens unknowingly, the 'unbinding' is simply making this very unknowing fully knowable.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .